Oxford’s city centre is being transformed as Oxford City Council has pedestrianised St Michael’s Street to enable outdoor dining and support the local hospitality businesses.

Benefactors include The Plough at 38, The Nosebag, The Three Goats Heads, Mission Burrito and Society Café, who are all delighted with the news.

However, there are already calls for the changes to become permanent.

The road closure, from the junction of Cornmarket Street to Society Café, started on Saturday and will be in operation every day between 10am and 6pm to create a more accessible and attractive city centre, as well as supporting local eateries.

It means restaurants, pubs and cafés in St Michael’s Street will be able to safely install tables and chairs in the road. This is intended to ensure adequate space is available for diners to keep apart, minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus, but still eat outdoors.

The Plough At 38 on Cornmarket and now round the corner to St Michael’s Street

Chris Mulhall from The Plough at 38 welcomed the temporary closure, and added that it will give businesses the chance to shine: “The decision to close it on a temporary basis is very welcome. The street has long been forgotten in Oxford’s centre and it now has an opportunity to shine. My only gripe is why the council want to open it back up for traffic after 6pm, this seems like a real opportunity missed given the usage.”

Chris added: “It’s perfect for us. and will make a huge difference to the sustainability of businesses like mine. I would like to thank Oxford City Council for their support in the last few months to make this happen.”

Chris hopes the measures will then be made permanent, although currently the road closure will initially be in operation until 3 September.

Moveable planters are planned for outside Society Café to block the road and stop vehicles, including mopeds, from accessing the street.

The pedestrianisation is part of a wide range of work that Oxford City Council is carrying out across the city centre to support businesses through the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing by enabling them to welcome as many customers as possible. 

To support the pedestrianised zone, the City Council has removed bike racks outside Society Café, The Handlebar and BikeZone.

The Handlebar Cafe and Kitchen

Celine from The Handlebar Cafe and Kitchen said: “We are now able to capitalise on the summer and use the new alfresco space for a tapas and cocktail bar, relishing a new European style easy dining. With a Spanish head chef and an Italian cocktail bar manager, the new concept was easy to come to!”

Disabled ramps have been installed at three points along the road to help people move from the pavement to the pedestrianised road, in line with the council’s commitment to create an inclusive and accessible city centre. 

Dining al fresco

Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader, and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “Without outdoor seating, some restaurants and bars will not have sufficient space to be able to open safely. The next few months are going to be crucial for Oxford’s hospitality sector and we are committed to helping. Our measures to reboot the local economy will also deliver the benefit of creating walkable streets and bringing into being a better system for moving around the city centre.”

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